Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Critique Dare - 9 Chapters Read

The challenge until November 30 (or as I call it "NaNoWrongMo") is to critique a chapter a day. My critique group's rule is that you post a chapter for every three you read. If this doesn't get the darned book done, I don't know what will.

I will stop here to define what I consider "finished" for a first draft.

I tend to jump around when I write, developing the story in pieces and rewriting as I go. By the time the book is whole, most of it has been revised several times. Since I've already written the last chapter, how I do I know whether it's done or not?

My own rule is that the first draft is done when it is actually readable without inserted explanations. There may be rough patches and sketchy scenes, but it all makes sense. There comes a point when it's maybe three quarters done that the beginning is all filled in, and I may let my crit group see those early chapters before it's done, but otherwise I don't usually let people see it until the whole story is there.

What this means is that the story doesn't usually need much if any structural work by the time anyone sees it. The "re-vision" stage is usually done - but that's okay because I find that critique at that level just tends to interfere with the process. Structural critique is better to help you with the next story. If you get it too soon on this story you could end up in a muddle as you try to encompass outside and inside forces. Nail your own concept down to the best of your ability. If you are already in a muddle, talk it out with somebody. Save the critique for later.

The advantage of using critique late in the process is that people can better see what you're going for, and help you edit and polish your way into that direction. If your beginning didn't set it up right, then they can see that later on - but if they try to critique your beginning before they see where you're going, they may not even know it's not working.

So anyway....

Tonight I read nine chapters of a single book - which is rising to an exciting climax. This story is really hitting its stride, with lots of fun twists, and I'm glad I saved those nine chapters in a row, because the truth is, it would be hard to see the pacing if I had read them one at a time, separated by a week or two.

I did not write the critique for tonight because I read the extra chapters instead. I'll probably post more than two tomorrow.

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